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Reggie Wilson's historic tributary

Reggie Wilson's company in The Good Dance.
Reggie Wilson's company in The Good Dance.
By Antoine Tempe

Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group brings to the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, March 31 to April 2, the local premiere of a full-length collaborative piece titled The Good Dance – dakar/brooklyn. It posits Wilson’s experiences as an African-American choreographer working in Brooklyn against those of Congolese dance maker Andreya Ouamba. Both share histories that involve a profound attachment to bodies of water. For Wilson, it’s the Mississippi Delta from which his family migrated. For Ouamba, it’s the Congo River, which informs the layered rhythms of his culture.

To evoke the overpowering spirit of these rivers, both men have as their central, ever-fluctuating set piece close to 400 half-filled plastic water bottles. The meanings are endless, as the dancers balance the bottles on their heads…frequently shifting their bodies to reach a state of equilibrium. The bottles also serve as active symbols of rushing currents, obstacles for the dancers and, later, a makeshift bridge. Water, as a whole, traditionally represents a life-giving source. The bottles are also a poetic way of harnessing that source.

But the real crux of The Good Dance (whose title references the sacred connections diaspora cultures preserve through their bodies) is how it shows side by side the way dancers with formal post-modern training adapt to more natural, or improvised rhythms – and vice versa. At its core, the work features one woman moving to the beat of her own body through loose arm swings, hip motions and turns. Next to her a trained dancer clearly formalizes these movements into something more stylized. Yet both show a similar virtuosity: the first exhibits a comforting oneness with her inner vibrations; the other crafts stunning shapes with her torso and limbs. Throughout, the seven dancers in the piece constantly adjust to their changing environment of repositioned water bottles and the influences of each other’s rhythmic histories. The music includes African drumming, gospel and Latin inflections. The dancers are essentially experiencing their own migration ritual across the tides of time, place and the language of movement that segues from labor-intensive to meditative.

Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group presents The Good Dance -- dakar/brooklyn March 31 to April 2 at 8 p.m. at the Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. Tickets: $26-$30. Call 312-369-8330 or visit

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